My First Week of New Parenthood

Our "Precious"

Technically bubs is now a week and 2 days old but what's 2 days give or take right?

All that reading and past experience taking care of my younger brother when I was in High School have paid off big time in the last nine days. It certainly made me a little less clueless and ably pretend that I know what I am doing. Unfortunately, neither quite prepared me for how much hard work it really is.

I mean, I had an inkling... but all past experiences have been softened by the availability of a "sub" -- my mom taking over when things got gritty with little bro, or yaya (nanny) swooping in when your arms got tired from carrying my then overweight but adorable brother. And while I had a fair hand putting my younger sibling to sleep, I never had to deal with any of his pre-dawn feedings. That was where yaya came in handy.

Enter my own precious little princess. As soon as she popped out and the standard checks were done, she is handed over to our care. No nursery for the happy and healthy here in NZ. Basically, you birthed your baby, you take care of your baby.

While I was ecstatic to have this much time with bubs, the cocktail of meds that kept me pain free was also keeping me slightly incoherent. Now enter PIC, my knight in shining armor.

Daddy's girl from the word Go
For that first day and a half that I was absolutely useless, he fed me, served me that god-awful Chinese herbal tea (O-tso-tong-sim), kept me on my meds like clockwork, passed bubs over for her feeding and took care of ALL her nappy changes after the resident midwife showed him how. He stayed with me for as long as he can each night (no one was allowed to spend the night at the hospital on pain of death), one time even up to 3AM, and was back again at 7AM the next day, every day. Bubs and I would have been lost without him.

After 4 full days in hospital, by lunch time on the 5th, I was ready to go home. 

At this stage I have had my fair share of the night feedings and have gotten to know my little baby a bit better. We soon discovered that she loves being swaddled in that starchy blanket that the hospital provides, hates her plastic bassinet with the stiff cushion but slept like a log when lain on the slightly softer hospital bed sandwiched between my plump down pillow from home and myself. She hates having complete lights out, which is the total opposite of me, so I had to quickly learn how to sleep with some illumination. Not as hard as I had imagined though as the exhaustion certainly helped a lot here. So on the 5th day, you can imagine how confident I was feeling. I am up and about, taking care of bubs, and starting to feel like an expert on all things related to her.

You can also tell I forgot that having PIC during the day allowed me to rest and nap, and all that morphine they pumped into me at regular intervals kept the pain of my healing stitches away.

First three days home were great. A few adjustments here and there and we were ace. I have never seen a man so in love with his little daughter as PIC was. Everything she did was perfect. He picked her up with every little squeak even as I told him she needs to learn to self soothe. He placed her on his chest to sleep as he was convinced it made her sleep better (it did, but I really wasn't going to admit that) when it was perfectly fine to lay her on the bed. He spoke to her, played with her, again changed ALL her nappies for her, and fed her. The amount of pictures we took and exchanged between our phones on this first week must have broken a record somewhere -- we were that enamored of our little girl.

My two loves conked out
Then it was time for PIC to go back to work and I got my first dousing of cold water. Little Aoife's waking hours can be timed like clockwork to approximately two and half to three hours between feedings. This means between feeding, changing her nappy, and putting her back to sleep, I barely had enough time to do one other extra thing for myself before she's up again wanting another repeat of the earlier cycle. I was up each day at 7/8AM, finishing somewhere between 12 and 1AM and sometimes up for a smidge of the two pre-dawn feedings which PIC has gallantly taken as his "shifts."

And while none of this was ever a surprise, you never quite let the magnitude of the effort sink in until you're wading in the thick of it. No yaya to pass bubs on to, no mom, and no PIC for most of the day either. And while people will tell you to sleep when bubs is sleeping, and your brain is screaming at you to heed this advise, if you live in a yaya-free environment like we do, you would understand that this is easier said (or thought) than done.

My one other saving grace is that having my brother here means I don't have to do any of the cooking or house chores. He's absolutely useless with the baby though, but I am not complaining -- at this stage I can kiss his stinky feet if needed. That's how much I appreciate having him around. Poor man though, he's been ending his days flat out as well. I'm guessing this experience is now giving him a whole new appreciation for how my mom and I have been running our households while he spends most of his days in front of a PC gaming.

So yes, its tiring. But have I learned anything new?

The Nappy Business. Wipes, even when they say they're hypoallergenic can still cause your baby's bum to be irritated. In our case, it started a mild case of diaper rash which we were able to chase away by going old school and switching to cotton and water plus a healthy heaping of Mustela Vitamin Barrier Cream with Zinc Oxide (I am now absolutely in love with this product!). Also, of the brands we've tried, Huggies is the way to go - never underestimate the power of wee absorption in a nappy. Soaking your baby's bum in pee is no fun for your baby or for you. Would I try cloth nappies? Not if keeping her moisture free is my main goal and not without additional help around bubs. Oh, during the process of changing, be prepared to see some mustard squirt out of that bum hole, get peed on, and prepare to change your baba's nappy again just as you taped that new one on. She will scream murder sometimes, and be docile as a lamb on others. When she does freak out, let her. Unless she starts turning red in the face, then pick her up, calm her down, encourage her to breathe, then go back to the business of changing. Also before I forget, as an alternative to the cotton, water & Mustela, our midwife did give us a prescription for generic Zinc & Castor Oil Ointment plus 3 tubs of Aqueous Cream. As long as we have a prescription we can get these free of charge from the pharmacy up to when bubs is 6 years old. We dip the wipes in cream and use them on her bum as per usual - this should coat the wipes so they no longer irritate her bum and at the same time clean and moisturize her little posterior.

sister sent these in the post!
Feeding. I am proud to say that I feed my bubs a mix of breast milk and formula. I quickly discovered I wasn't quite making enough milk on my own and asked for the formula top up. But I never let up. A lot of mothers experience post natal D because they have issues with not being able to provide enough milk for their babies. Why would this be the case I ask? Your body can only do what it can, but your baby's health should be your first priority -- ask for help when you need it. When your baby is depending on you to feed, this is not the time for heroics or self recrimination. Get things done first, worry about the rest later. After a week of religiously expressing every feeding time, oatmeal breakfasts, and following the 10mins-on-10mins-off technique, my milk seems to have finally arrived and I am now breaking that 2oz cap per expression session. I cant wait to get my malunggay (Moringa) capsules and hopefully that will boost my supply even further. To prove I am on the right track, bubs only lost 6% of her birth weight during her first few days of life, gained it all back by her 6th day, and is now 200g heavier on yesterday's weigh in. That's our little feeding and pooping machine!

Baby Grooming. Even if the whole village tells you not to, if you know you're going to have a baby circa 7lbs and below, get newborn clothes. In our case, we only had about 3 sets of them more as a "just in case" and everything else was sized 0-3 months. Luckily another 4 came in as gifts and PIC went and bought a few more to complete baba's wardrobe. Hip hop loose is not something I would recommend on a winter baby when you are trying to keep her bundled up. Plus, newborns are worse than stage actors for the number of wardrobe changes they require. This just from your random spit-ups, explosive poo and wee not included. Another thing to be mindful of are her fingernails. Snip them short and FILE them. I laughed when I first saw the itsy bitsy emery boards in her grooming kit but soon realized that they served a purpose. Once, after cutting her nails she still managed to scratch her perfect little face so I made sure I filed off those edges soon after. Lastly, get one of those baby toothbrushes that you wear on your finger to brush away the milk residue off her tongue. Bubs surprisingly let me do this without much of a fuss, but lots of grimacing and that look that says "what are you up to now, mom??"

Newborn Snot. On day 5 little Aoife started giving this little congested noise while breathing. Oh dear, its that dreaded newborn leftover mucous everyone's been harping about. And because she didn't enter this world via my birth canal, she didn't get most of it squeezed out of her lungs. Now its here to haunt us. Again, chalk this to all the reading, but I'm glad I didn't freak out when I first noticed this and I'm glad I was able to calm PIC down with enough jibber jabber on the subject. So if you do find yourself in the same predicament as us -- bear in mind that it will be a nuisance for your baby. It will cause some spit up and feeding will be slower as she will have some slight difficulty breathing. She will also be noisier when she feeds and sleeps. This also starts with a congested nose then progresses to a congested chest with the occasional cough. But as long as she keeps her appetite and the snot in her nose is not green and she's not phlegmy, you should be OK. This usually goes away on its own, but you can help your bubs out by using a vaporizer to clear her airways. However, I am not a doctor -- so while this is written to ease any immediate bouts of panic, DO go and see you pediatrician. Remember, a real doctor would know best v a fledgling mommy from Manila, transplanted to New Zealand.

Whew! This has got to be the longest post ever! But it does sum up our adventure so far.

Motherhood I find, can be tiring, and there will be times when you'll be frustrated at your own helplessness, but then you'll also find these emotions can easily be eclipsed by a single sigh from your little one. 

In one week, I learned that happiness isn't what I have known so far. It actually comes in a little bundle barely weighing 8 pounds named Aoife.


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